New York City traffic signs have been transformed by art and haiku poetry

By rewriting traditional street-sign warnings in haiku form, New York City is using poetry to urge motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians to think about safety. (See one of the 200 new signs below.) City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan unveiled the new Curbside Haiku campaign on Tuesday, saying the city is “putting poetry into motion with public art to make New York City’s streets even safer.

The signs were created by New York/Atlanta artist John Morse and feature twelve designs accompanied by a haiku poem. Morse created the images through paper collage and authored the haiku, which he said was a whimsical take on a deadly serious subject.  “It’s like a Grimm’s fairy tale. You’re delivering a dark message in a way that’s rather delightful.”

He said the challenge was to find a new way to deliver an old message. “We have this thought of ‘walk/don’t walk. Look both ways.’ I get that, I understand that,” he said. “The goal here is to say ‘how can I reach people who have heard that message a million times but need to hear it again?’” He added that the poetry “underscores the reality here, the harshness of, what is the brutality of traffic. That’s a very significant thing.”

Some Haiku  examples:

Cyclist writes screenplay
Plot features bike lane drama
How pedestrian


She walks in beauty
Like the night. Maybe that’s why
Drivers can’t see her.

I hope this works. I was in NYC recently and it seemed like I was the only pedestrian who waited for a green light to cross the street. With so many jay walkers, no wonder traffic can’t move.